If David McCullough, the respected historian and author of best-selling biographies of presidents Harry Truman and John Adams, is to be believed, then Senator Fred Thompson has already made his decision to run again in 2002.
It has seemed fairly clear to many observers that Thompson's omnipresence in Tennessee and on television talk shows since last week's terrorist attacks augured a reelection run. But McCullough says the senator's decision came just a mite earlier than September 11th.
As Allison Stevens of The Hill, a widely read Capitol Hill poop-sheet, renders it: "Thompson encountered McCullough on a downtown Washington street last week, just before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and introduced himself. He told the historian he had been uncertain about whether he would run again, but after reading the 736-page [Adams] tome during the August recess, he changed his mind."
Stevens quotes Thompson this way on the exchange: "Well, yeah, I -- I did have that conversation with him. I don't know the words that I used, but I certainly could have left that impression."
Thompson said the terrorist attacks and their aftermath were important in reaching a decision as well. "[The crisis] has its effect, just like David McCullough's book had its effect in another way, in a positive way. It's just life and lives that we lead. I suppose everything goes into [these decisions]."
The senator said further: "[I'm] trying to address a very personal situation in the midst of turmoil and crisis and pressure. I kind of made the determination some time ago that I was going to absorb all these things and just see what kind of an impact they had on me, as I thought my way and felt my way through, as to what was right for me. I decided I wasn't going to come to any conclusions in the midst of all this."
The senator characterized McCullough's Adams biography as "inspirational," according to Stevens. "You know, a man who devoted his life to public service and who died without much in the way of physical asset, but who provided a great service to his country, it's inspirational. And it had an impact on my thinking." Lest giddy Republicans get too carried away with the foregoing, the senator did issue a caveat. Said The Hill's report: "Thompson protested that the notion he had 'changed his mind' over the August recess 'was a little strong' and insisted that he has not made a final decision."